“I believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them show the way” - The Greatest Love of All, Masser and Creed 1977
“Youth is wasted on the Young” - George Bernard Shaw
For almost my whole school life I was in a choir. When I was in year five we wowed audiences with our fabulous rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” made famous at the time by the talented and troubled Whitney Houston. It must have been pretty cute seeing 40 ten-year-olds sing “I believe that children are our future…”
George Bernard Shaw has famously been paraphrased saying “Youth is wasted on the young” meaning, I think, that the experience of being young is never appreciated by those who are.
Flash forward more than 30 years and I’ve had a wonderful few weeks celebrating and experiencing the young people in my life and work. A week that has confirmed Whitney’s contention and contradicted George’s.
The first instance was celebrating the investiture of my youngest son as a FIRE carrier at his primary school. The FIRE carrier program is a joint initiative of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry (ACM) and the Opening the Doors Foundation (OTDF) and stands for Friends Igniting Reconciliation through Education. Through participation in the program, the FIRE carriers help with Reconciliation activities, encourage the use of Aboriginal liturgy, fundraise for OTDF and celebrate significant dates in our shared story.
In the investiture, the young people were blessed and welcomed by ACM coordinator Sherry Balcombe and sent forth in their ministry. The pride on the four young faces as they received the warmth of the fire on their ears, eyes and hearts showed their appreciation of the profundity of the moment. The experience certainly wasn’t wasted on them.
The second event was my daughter’s annual music concert where many young women shared their musical gifts. Hours and hours and, in some cases, years of hard work and practice went into the performance and faces of concentration and pure joy shone from the stage. What stood out for me was the commitment and effort, the heart and mood-lifting energy, the maturity and grace displayed by all the performers, and the immense gratitude they offered to their teachers for inspiring and supporting their art. The experience wasn’t wasted on them.
Third was another musical treat, this time with my eldest son. The students welcomed the audience and introduced the pieces with so much knowledge, alerting us to key parts of the music- asking us to watch out for exciting phrases or dramatic themes. At the conclusion of the concert, the music captain closed the evening paying special tribute to the parents, guardians and families. What struck me here was the respect and encouragement the boys showed to their peers. The experience wasn’t wasted on them either.
My week finished at a school in Melbourne’s west working with a great group of Year 10 girls on a program called I Am Woman, one of CatholicCare’s Relationship Matter programs. This session explores the question “What sort of person do you want to become?” And here I heard many inspirational answers; “I want to be someone who helps those in need, like Mary MacKillop”, “I want to be someone who fights injustice”.
One wise student told the group that she appreciated her freedom and the privilege of living in her community- I would suggest that George Bernard Shaw wasn’t referring to this young person either. I also saw groups of girls affirming and supporting one another and spending time thinking about their values and the things that help them live by these values. The session always finishes with some ideas for the students to help them connect with and affirm themselves;
- Spend time with people that make you feel good
- Turn up the volume on the things that you like about yourself and press delete on the negative self-talk
- Treat yourself like you would a friend- with kindness!
- Embrace yourself, flaws and all
- Let go of your mistakes- they are holding you back
- Tell others what you like about them, help them jump start their positive thinking
- Accept a compliment- don’t just shrug it off
- Get into the habit of writing down things you like about yourself- hunt for the good!
So, on this International Day of Youth I want to pay tribute to all the young people who enrich my life and the lives of all those around them and thank them for being our future.
Acting Manager, Marriage and Relationship Education Unit